I have a bit of weeding to do now at home, not the kind of job you’d normally look forward to but I have to say, pulling weeds will be nearly enjoyable after this.
Or painting. Or cleaning out the gutters. Anything. Because the game yesterday in Croke Park spoiled not just my weekend but what has been a really enjoyable hurling championship up to now.
This wasn’t Kilkenny’s fault. They did what they had to do and scoring 24 points was no mean feat. But Dublin, what game-plan were they playing? Trying to exploit JJ Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell and now, Paul Murphy, in the Kilkenny full-back line?
Those guys would mind mice for you at a crossroads. They know every blade of grass in Croke Park — they were going to be pulled out of position? Then you look at the protection they were getting from outside. Brian Hogan again immense in the centre, Joey Holden growing with every outing and Cillian Buckley was outstanding.
Sometimes, in hurling, you should forget about tactics, where you’re only making things complicated for the players. Just go out and hurl, let those on the field find the weaknesses in the opposition and exploit it. You could see it in Dublin yesterday, they were at sixes and sevens from the start. Hurling comes down to doing the basics, and no better team to exemplify that than Kilkenny.
Admittedly Kilkenny have better hurlers than Dublin. Better strikers, better readers of the game, better all-round. But the frustrating thing from a Dublin point of view is this wasn’t a great Kilkenny display and the Cats were there for the taking by a better team than Dublin. But if they had a goalscorer, if Eddie Brennan had been there, they’d also have had a lorry load of goals.
Having said that, great credit has to go to the Dublin defence, who were heroic. I’m talking about Stephen Hiney, Liam Rushe, Shane Durkin at times. But when you see Dublin having to take off John McCaffrey, Conal Keaney, Danny Sutcliffe (probably not fully fit) and Ryan O’Dwyer, that tells you everything you need to know about them yesterday. Those four have been outstanding for them in the last few years, none were at the races in this final.
They brought on Conor McCormack and he seemed to do okay but he brought the same problem on the field with him as those he had replaced, his head seemed to be full of tactics and game-plans of precision balls and all that sort of thing, instead of just doing what they all do best and playing their own natural game.
By contrast, look at Richie Hogan in midfield and Conor Fogarty. They were on the ball more than anyone else but always, kept things simple, took the obvious option, not looking for perfection. And of course there’s the king of them all — Henry was on the field for 15 minutes, had four shots on goal, got three and the one he missed was from halfway. I don’t know if he’ll start the next day but he was certainly making a statement.
The Kilkenny management know what they’re doing and they’ve outsmarted everyone up to now, so maybe he and Aidan Fogarty will again be held in reserve. We’ll see.
Biggest bonus for Kilkenny from yesterday is the long break now to the All-Ireland semi-final. Rest assured, they’ll be ready for that.
Dublin too are getting a bit of a break, three weeks, but rather than wasting that time trying to concoct even better and more complicated game-plans,they should just bring this team back to basics, because we all know Dublin are better than we saw yesterday.
As for the All-Ireland championship itself, it’s still as wide open as ever. Kilkenny are real contenders again, no doubt about that, but no-one knows better than Brian Cody that they still have a lot of work to do.
The Munster championship next week will tell us much more — hopefully it will be a betterspectacle than this.
A word on the minor game: Kilkenny had lost heavily to Dublin in an earlier round and weren’t going to lose twice. Keep an eye out for two names: Alan Murphy and Liam Blanchfield, both forwards.
Dublin? Watching their warm-up I thought I was in the Curragh, military-style formations.
You know, it’s not how you enter the field of battle, it’s how you leave it. Kilkenny left Croke Park yesterday with the silver. Says all that has to be said.
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